The Physics Lesson
The new year presents a time for resolutions, and one would think, a time to shift from the past to the future. A lesson in physics says that momentum can only be stopped in two ways: gradually, by adding to the opposing force incrementally, over time, or suddenly, with an opposing force greater than that which drives the momentum.
If physics has anything to do with football, the lesson would be that when everything is going in the wrong direction, the person at the helm has to choose between pursuing a path of gradual improvement or blowing the whole thing up and starting over.
The Dallas Cowboys have been staring in the face of the momentum monster for well over a decade, and the sad truth for their fans is that the person at the helm either does not have a plan that will stop it, or he does not have the fortitude to implement it.
The Emperor, Jerry Jones
It is hard to imagine that Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, is lacking in brass. After all, it is he who bought the team and immediately fired the patron saint, Tom Landry; and it is he who implied that he was behind all the success of the early 90s and that head coach, Jimmy Johnson, was just another coach. Exit Johnson.
Cashing in on the Cowboys’ popularity, Jerry Jones created a retail empire. He understood the meaning of branding as well as the philosophy of capitalism. Investing in the empire gave him deep pockets. The Cowboys brand is a global phenomenon, and Mr. Jones is filthy rich.
Jones created some momentum, a bandwagon of sorts, and lots of people jumped on board. Enjoying the ride, Jones convinced himself that rumors of his invincibility were true. He and his organization became the envy of other emperors and empires.
However, like emperors with no clothes, Jerry Jones has undermined the brand. Believing in his own prowess, while his eyes have feasted on the breadth of his empire, the attention to the streets is lacking in sincerity.
The common folks in the empire, once in love with the emperor, even in his madness, are restless. The words of this famous bluegrass tune give clues to the pending peasants’ rebellion:
Well, the cows went dry, and the hens don’t lay, there’s no place I can borrow
Give the landlord all the news and the rent comes due tomorrow
Lots of money in the bank, they say that’s where they keep it
Not only wouldn’t they loan me some, they wouldn’t let me see it.
So, pick away on the old banjo
And keep the guitar strummin’
Put more water in the soup
There’s better times a-comin’.
Truth Is Not a Pretty Picture
The Dallas Cowboys empire is hungry. Adding more water to the soup does not make it taste better; it just makes whatever taste is remaining more boring, rancid, and thin.
At some point, the momentum of the Cowboys brand will be neutralized by a force that has more weight behind it, a force that will finally convert the momentum to ashes. It will happen when the people on the streets, and in the sports media booths, tell the emperor he is not wearing any clothes, and that he does not look good naked.
Living too long on the momentum of the early 90s, and the convincing force of Cowboys teams in the past, the owner has abandoned the things that built it: the draft, the hard work on the field, the character of those who play the game, and the role of the field general whose hands are tied to the bandwagon as the steep fall from the cliff approaches.
Some folks will clamor for the hanging of the field general; others will call for the replacement of the lieutenants on the field. The emperor will look to his empire for stand-ins to take their places. In the end, though, the emperor does not have the force to stop the momentum. All he can do is run around naked while folks laugh and point.
The Rent Comes Due Tomorrow
I am not surprised at the 8-8 finish. I will not be surprised if Jerry Jones throws more money at the problem. It will look like a daring roulette play, but it will most likely fail. The odds always favor the house; that’s why they have casinos.
Maybe, just maybe, legendary figures in Cowboys history like scouting engineer, Gil Brandt, head coach, Tom Landry, and general manager, Tex Schramm, knew something about building a football team. Maybe, the previous Cowboys owners, like Clint Murchison, knew the value of investing for the long term, not buying stocks at their all-time highs to create a buzz, but buying the boring stocks that paid dividends year after year after year.
The Cowboys empire, once the mightiest on Earth, has fallen victim to momentum, the momentum of its many opposing forces, and most sadly, the misguided momentum of pursuing power through notoriety and reputation, rather than the quality of its core product.
If Mr. Jones has a resolution for 2012, I hope it has something to do with meat and potatoes, like character and hard work. The same old watered-down soup won’t keep getting people to the table to eat; they’d rather go hungry, or go elsewhere.
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